The Sound of Summer: Thwack!

Harvard's Junior Tennis Camp One of Largest in Country

School may be out for the summer for Harvard athletes, but the palmer-Dixon tennis courts are still alive with the sound of tennis balls thwacking, thanks to the Harvard Junior Tennis Camp.

The camp, which runs for 12 one-week sessions, is one of the largest of its type in the country, according to camp director Chris D. Lloyd.

Lloyd, who runs the camp along with David R. Fish, Harvard men's tennis coach, and Gordon C. Graham, Harvard women's tennis coach, estimates that about 1,800 area children aged five to 18 will attend the morning, afternoon or all-day sessions of the camp this summer.

"Our campers range from first time to tournament players," Lloyd says.

While Harvard hosts camps for other sports, he says the Junior Tennis Camp runs the longest and draws in the most participants.

According to Lloyd, the camp started four summers ago with just morning classes, expanding to its current three-class format in the summer of 1992.

Its drawing range has also expanded--while many campers are Cambridge residents and/or children of Harvard faculty members, others come from farther away in the greater Boston area.

He points out that the camp had managed to keep growing even as the sport went on the downside nationally, currently drawing fewer new players each year.

Lloyd lists four reasons he attributes to the program's success, which he said the camp focuses on providing: safety, skill development, unconditional customer satisfaction and an underlying fun environment.

"We create an environment that's non-threatening and non-intimidating," Lloyd says. "Camp can be intimidating and overwhelming experience for children if they're not experienced."

He also mentions the camp's avoidance of high schoolers as instructors--the 50-plus instructors this summer are players from Harvard and from other colleges across the country and college coaches from across the country.

Campers are divided both by age and by ability. Each camp has a group of five-to-eight year olds, a group of nine-to-13 year old and a group of 14-to-18 year olds.

The camp begins with evaluations on Monday, moving on to stroke-training and analysis during the week.

Instructors also have talks with their groups during the sessions about various matters.

On Friday, Lloyd says, the campers get to have some fun--along with an awards presentation, the kids perform skits and other acts, as well as choosing one instructor and one camper to be doused with ice water.

Campers get a certificate and a t-shirt, as well as a written stroke evaluation which Lloyd says in one of the advantages of the camp.

"We have been able to reach the children and build on their self-esteem and confidence," Lloyd says. "If the children feel safe and are having a good time, the rest comes easier."